1. The act of providing or preparing for future use or application.
2. Foresight; timely care; particularly, active foresight, or foresight accompanied with the procurement of what is necessary for future use.
3. In theology, the care and superintendence which God exercises over his creatures. He that acknowledges a creation and denies a providence involves himself in a palpable contradiction; for the same power which caused a thing to exist is necessary to continue its existence. Some persons admit a general providence,but deny a particular providence, not considering that a general providence consists of particulars. ... By divine providence is often understood God himself.
*excerpted from Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary
Yes, I read dictionaries for fun. But that's beside the point.
As I think I've mentioned before, I love words. I love what you can do with them. Words can be powerful.
But words can also be useless if you don't know what they mean.
There are some words that my eyes slide right over without much thought, because they just don't mean anything to me. It's like the toddler who calls anything with four legs a "dog"; if I haven't formed a mental picture or understanding of something, it will likely go right over my head.
So it was with the word "providence."
It's kind of old, not really in the vernacular, and definitely not cool. But I've just had an experience that gave "providence" a book's-worth of meaning for me:
For the first time in my life, I've been directly used in someone's salvation.
Sure, I've talked to people about Jesus before, more than a few times. I've shared my testimony, written notes, stood up for truth when necessary, and, most importantly, made an effort to be a constant and encouraging friend, a ready ear, a safe place.
And I've known people who have given their lives to Christ and been changed by him. But I've always been on the outskirts, more of a seed-planter or waterer than a harvester, if you will.
That is, until Friday.
What happened that morning was crazy. It was really crazy, and it made no sense.
We were at a local nursing home, dancing in a tiny space, our Marley rolled out over carpet, in front of a giant fish tank. I think one of the clown fish had gotten a hold of someone's coffee, because he was spazzing out the whole time. Well, at least every time I looked that way.
It was our first time performing our new repertoire, in costumes we'd never danced in, and unaccompanied by our director (remember, the one with the baby?). In other words, *ideal* conditions.
We danced for nearly an hour. When we stopped, I suppose you know whose turn it was to take the mic.
Yep. Just garbling, tongue-tied, can-hardly-talk-to-her-friends-let-alone-other-people me. And I was out of breath.
I had carefully written what I would say.
Whatever the opposite of spontaneous is, that's what I am.
But God had other plans. I really don't remember what I said. At one point, I suddenly heard what was coming out of my mouth, and the power of the truth of the gospel nearly overwhelmed me.
Suddenly all I could think of was someone in my family who does not believe this truth, who does not know the Lord. I had to stop talking, for fear I'd start to cry (and that's something I just don't do).
I don't know how long my mouth was shut. At least half a minute. That's when I noticed something that doesn't usually happen in nursing homes: People were paying attention.
I blinked, frantically took out the index card I hadn't been looking at, and started in again. I stumbled through the passage I had chosen and tried to muster a smile as I thanked everyone and told them all the dancers were coming back out to visit with them. I put down the mic and marched into the nearest hallway, almost mad at myself.
None of the others had ever botched it like this, I thought.
And then she came.
I don't know her name. I don't know anything about her. All I know is her tear-streaked face and her purple scrubs. That's all we had time for before she had to go.
But I know that on Friday, February 11th, God reached down, turned her around, and rescued her from herself, and she began a new life that morning.
And I was there! Thanks to the Lord, I was there!
God's power was again proven to me that morning.
He doesn't need me, and yet, for reasons no one on earth can understand, he chose to use me.
Nietzsche was very wrong. God is not dead. He is alive and very involved in the lives of His children.
This is providence.
I've now come to a satisfactory "working definition." No longer will I pass over the word like a green banana, looking for something that's easier to get into. When I encounter the word "providence," I will forever have that morning in my head.
Now I understand it.
And my understanding of the Lord has grown again.
"By divine providence is often understood God himself."
Do you have a story like this?